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Column: The Vampire locusts of summer

Revised on: 06.18.2018 at 12:07 p.m.

Posted on: 06.15.2018 at 07:00 a.m.

By Jefferson Weaver

jeffersonweaver@nrcolumbus.com

Normally, I am rather philosophical about all God’s creatures.

While I will do all I can to prevent a hawk, coyote or fox from stealing one of my hens, I do not particularly hate said wild things. I am far too forgiving when possums find hidden clutches of eggs. I have related before my live-and-let-live policy regarding snakes.  While I will soak a wasp nest with pesticide if it’s too close to the house or barn, I usually leave them alone if they leave me alone. Few and far between are the spiders I cannot tolerate, as long as they are working for a living.

Note that I said I am philosophical, if not downright tolerant, of God’s creatures.

I am of the opinion that all varieties of biting flies, however, are creations not of an omniscient, omnipresent, loving God, but instead were engineered from leftover hatred and spite when Lucifer was cast out of Heaven.

As if horseflies were not bad enough on their own, everyone who lives within spittin’ distance of a swamp in Southeastern North Carolina has to deal with yellow flies. Even a mosquito has a certain amount of honor – they just stab and suck blood from their victims. Biting flies, however, have appendages like scissors that they use to saw through flesh to lap blood. Any bug that uses probosces (that’s the plural of proboscis, by the way) to slash a hole in its victim simply must be a contrivance of Satan.

I exaggerate, of course, since the Bible clearly states that the Evil One can’t create. It also points out, in Genesis Chapter Three, that when Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, all manner of things that had previously not been a problem – thorns, biting serpents and the like – were suddenly parts of everyday life. I’m fairly sure biting flies of all descriptions were among the first things God turned loose on our errant ancestors.

I nearly sustained a broken leg once because of a horsefly about two inches long. That might require a bit of explanation.

Despite the use of bait stations, ear tags, and a .22 rifle (seriously) we were enduring a major invasion by horseflies. We’re talking about bugs big enough to laugh at you when you slapped them and made contact. Bugs that would make a bad dog cry.

My poor horses were taking the worst hits, and while I am not a big one for dumping more chemicals into the landscape, I gave in to good sense and stewardship and purchased a bottle of stuff designed to make flies avoid animals. I figured the reaction would be about like that of my dogs when they get sprayed with flea treatment, in that a firm hand, a strong word and some reassurance would prevent the worst of the hysteria.

I was wrong.

Whether it was the hiss of the spray bottle or the sting of the spray, I have no idea, but I ended up being dragged a good 10 feet by a horse best known for being rock solid and fearless of anything. I was kicked, twice, during this little adventure. The first time might have been an accident.

The spray worked, however,  and old June had some relief for about 5.35 minutes, which was how long it took her to roll in the sand and scrub off all the fly spray. It was with tremendous frustration that I watched a horsefly the size of s small hummingbird zero in on my old mare, hover for a moment, then find a place that was untouched by the pesticide, which had caused my hands to go numb. Future applications involving a sponge, rather than a spray bottle, were only slightly less hazardous to my health.

Horseflies, at least, one can usually see or hear coming.

Yellow flies, however, are the ultimate minions of Satan. How they can gnaw through a shirt is beyond me, but they can, will, and do so. Horseflies at least have to try, and considering one can easily be knocked down by the weight of most horseflies, you have some warning. Not so with those nasty, lightweight, tiger-striped psychopaths.

Have you ever tried to shoot a yellow fly? It doesn’t work. One can, with enough patience, put a BB or even a .22 through a horsefly; I will admit there have been several I have encountered of late that really needed a load of buckshot. One required judicious use of an axe, and for a while there, it was touch and go. Usually, however, a carefully aimed and properly backstopped .22 will reduce even the largest, most recalcitrant horsefly into fishing bait.
However, you can’t shoot a yellow fly. There just ain’t enough to aim at, as the old saying goes.

Horseflies have the decency to settle down at sunset, yet many in the night I have been awakened by the sawing, gnawing, welt-inducing jaws of a yellow fly.

I find it significant that yellow flies are attracted to dark colors – since I wear a lot of black, they naturally see me as a beacon. I’m just glad to know I have sufficient blood to support the approximately 15,000 that inhabit my front yard between the house and the car.

Thankfully, the yellow flies are shortlived, and perhaps, in a few days, the precise combination of weather, time and heavenly mercy will calm this plague until another day.The horseflies will still be with us, of course, but I have a lot of ammunition.

One could legitimately accuse me of exaggerating just a tad when it comes to dealing with the Vampire Locusts of summer. I would humbly agree that I tend to get a bit irritated at these repugnant varmints, as such, may get a bit more loquacious as well as caustic.

All the creatures on earth really were created for a purpose.. I know this. I’m reasonably sure both yellow and horseflies were made to remind Mankind that the bugs of biblical plagues are indeed real, and they have scissor-shaped mouths.

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